How You Could Make an Unbelievable $850/Day as a Temporary Tattoo Artist

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Have you seen kids at carnivals and similar events with flowers, mermaids and other designs painted on their faces?

If so — and especially if some of them were your children — you know getting these temporary tattoos applied costs a couple of dollars. But did you know you can buy them for less than 10 cents each?

You’ll pay closer to a dollar for the materials needed to apply airbrush tattoos, but they sell for $5 to $20, and they’re more popular with adults. Clearly, a temporary tattoo business would have high profit margins.

Selling and applying temporary tattoos is primarily a weekend business, since most application opportunities will be at community events. That makes tattooing a good part-time business if your weekdays are full.

Curious about this potential side business? Let’s look at the two most common types of temporary tattoos, as well as each one’s business advantages.

Stick-On Tattoos

It’s easiest to start with stick-on or “wet-and-press” tattoos. Many YouTube videos demonstrate how to apply them, and it’s a skill you can learn in minutes.

The other big advantage with stick-on tattoos is this business costs very little to start. You don’t need any special equipment; a wet cloth and a spray bottle are enough for most brands. Some tattoo varieties require isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), which costs about a dollar per bottle. Of course, you’ll also need a table and a sign, or you can use your own face to advertise your service.

Supplies are inexpensive as well. You can start with tattoos from dollar stores, but buying in bulk online will substantially lower your cost. For example, OrientalTrading.com has tattoos for less than 7 cents each when you buy in bulk. It carries pirates, flowers, monsters and hundreds of other designs. CustomTattoos.com has more elaborate designs starting at 35 cents each, with a $125 minimum order.

If your target market is kids (which is common with these easy-to-apply tattoos), set up a table or booth at school functions, street markets and any other events that are full of families. You’ll probably want to price your tattoos between $1 and $3, and you can offer a discount for more than one, since it takes very little extra time to apply a second or third tattoo.

Go to events and note which temporary tattoo sellers are busy, and see what they do to get noticed. If you bring your own kids when you set up, put tattoos on their faces to make them walking billboards.

The simple wet-and-press tattoos are not just for kids, and you can get creative with them if you design your own. At TattooSales.com, you can upload an image to make custom temporary tattoos. Use your imagination! One woman created a temporary tattoo of a music festival schedule, reported Gizmodo.com. Buyers put it on their forearms so they didn’t lose track of which band was playing at a particular time and stage.

If you buy into a franchise, you get support and a name to use. For example, BodyGraphics.com sells a starter kit for as little as $129, which includes 250 tattoos and the one-year franchise fee. Its website says: “Some of our franchisees are earning over $100,000 in just six months!”

Airbrush Tattoos

Airbrush tattoos look more like real tattoos. They’re often more elaborate than wet-and-press types, so they sell for more money. Prices average around $10, and the materials cost from 14 cents to about a dollar, according to EuropeanBodyArt.com. The business claims you can make $300 per hour over an eight-hour day. The higher price and profit margin is the biggest advantage to doing this type of tattoo.

The biggest drawback to airbrushing is that it costs more to get started. You need an airbrush, a compressor (get the silent studio type), a tank, hoses, couplers, paint and tools for unclogging the brush tip. Starting an airbrush tattoo business could cost you thousands of dollars.

It takes more time to learn the techniques as well. Fortunately, you can turn to airbrush tattoo YouTube videos to get your basic training.

If you want to start quickly and more easily, buy a kit. For example, TribalInkProducts.com sells a starter kit for a regular price of $1,299. When you buy a complete kit, sellers usually provide support by phone if you run into problems.

How Much Can You Make Selling Temporary Tattoos?

If you’re willing to invest the additional money and time to get started, airbrush tattoos are probably the way to go, because they’re more profitable. Actual figures for temporary tattoo businesses of either type are hard to come by, which is common with cash operations of any sort. But apart from the claims of the suppliers, you can find some information in tattoo-selling forums.

In one forum in 2015, those in the temporary tattoo business described a range of experiences. One said he averages $850 per day at fairs and festivals. He also reported working 10 to 12 hours, and on bad weather days his take would drop to $200. Another said he made $1,600 on a typical Saturday, but he had employees to pay. Yet another said his event income ranged wildly from $50 to $700 per day.

One contributor said that after six years of doing temporary tattoos part time, he grossed over $100,000 in a year, for a profit of about $62,000 after paying for an employee and other expenses. That’s not bad for a part-time business.

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror and roulette croupier; but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).